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tv   House Hearing on Weather Forecasting  CSPAN  October 19, 2021 4:44am-7:45am EDT

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forecasting. chair johnson: please also keep your microphone mute, unless you are speaking. if members have documents they wish to submit to the record, please email them to the clerk. the email address was circulated prior to the meeting. good morning, thank you to our
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witnesses for joining us here today. in april of 2011, a tornado outbreak tore through mississippi, alabama and neighboring states. over 300 lives were lost. this despite an average lead time of over 20 minutes before the tornadoes arrived. what went wrong? these tragedies prompted the national weather service to implement its plan to be a weather ready nation. their mission is to make the country ready for such threats. over many years later, october
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of 2019, a tornado outbreak tore through the south central usa. an ef-3 tornado hit the dallas suburbs and became the costliest tornado in texas history. however, unlike the tornadoes of 2011, there were no deaths or life-threatening injuries. the real difference was the ability of the weather service forecasters to communicate the risk, so that communities could prepare. this is called impact based decision support service, ibds, one of the many improvements made at the national weather service over the past decade. the weather service has built q
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uite a relationship with core partners. these include academia, emergency managers, the private sector, state, local and tribal governments. these partners work hand in hand to provide the public with critical weather and climate information. the developments they find with technology are propelling us into the future of weather forecasts. additionally, they have improved --. we owe much of this progress to our distinguished witnesses. the director of the national weather service will be retiring this year. he has served in this organization for 43 years.
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for the past 32 years, he has been at the national weather service. for the past nine years, he has served as its director. he's had an impressive career. whoever succeeds him as director will have a large shoes to fill. but despite the successes of the weather service under his tenure, there's still work to be done. over the past decade, there have been numerous -- in the weather service workforce and operations. each report outlines areas of improvement and growth. and some recommendations. we'll discuss some of the recent government accountability office reports on the weather service today. and commended the service for its willingness to address the findings of these reports and continually working towards improvement.
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world-class scientists ar thee weather service. -- are the beating heart of the weather service. however, there has been a high vacancy rate, leading to reduced morale. the weather service has taken steps to address workforce issues. but more work must be done. i cannot emphasize enough that the committee would like to see these vacancies filled, and they must be filled soon. today, we will discuss projects with the weather service and where there is still room for growth. we will expand on how to best position the weather service to provide a robust -- across the country. and we will discuss what additional weather service
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resources they need to make sure that we are truly able weathe -- a weather service nation. i home to provide a roadmap for the next director of the national weather service, and i look forward to hearing from our witnesses. the chair recognizes our distinguished ranking member of the committee for two minutes. >> thank you for holding the hearing. thank you to our witnesses further insight into our weather forecasting future. improving our forecasting abilities has been a high priority for me as ranking member of this committee, and i appreciate the doctor sharing his commitment and has dedicated his career to better serving the public. on a daily basis, the national weather service provides critical information to businesses across the country. around this time of year in
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oklahoma, the forecast alerts farmers and ranchers to the first frost of the season, helping us plan weeks ahead. towns and cities rely on the forecast to plan for inclement weather. and forecasts issued by local offices provides lifesaving information in the event of severe weather. in recent years, the nws has focused on efforts to become a weather ready nation. this was done by implementing impact based decision support services, where the national weather service offices provided forecast advice to local officials before and during a weather related emergency. these efforts have improved communication to the public, helping families better understand the effects a weather event can have on them personally. the doctor commanded the national weather service, have also focused on the implementation of the national blend of models, a method which improved the speed and accuracy
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at which meteorologist can issue alerts. by bringing the -- the and ws and non-ws -- an accurate consistent model to be a starting point for forecasters across the nation. but despite the many successes of the national weather service, no government office is perfect and challenges remain. at the forefront of my mind is how noaa and nws can more efficiently utilize -- to improve our weather models, as made evident by the national blended models, a u.s. weather model cannot achieve their full capacities without the support of private weather enterprise. another challenge we are facing is inspiring and training the next generation of meteorology students. improving our model, data and information will help us -- won't help us if we have no professionals to utilize them.
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that is why i am pleased to welcome the associate director of education outreach for the international hurricane research center at florida international university to the witness panel. as a weather ready nation ambassador, and somebody who works closely with university students, he can offer a perspective on the future of forecasting. especially when it comes to engaging the community and next-generation workforce. before i close, i want to thank the doctor for his decades of service to the federal government. after a 43 year career in public service, he will retire at the end of the new year. at the start of the new year, i should say. this change in leadership makes now an opportune time to reflect on the progress we have made in what challenges the national weather service should tackle next. i hope to use the hearing today to learn from all of our expert
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witnesses on what the next challenges might be. i yield back. chair johnson: thank you, mr. lucas/ . if members want to submit additional statements, they will be added to the record at this point. i would like to introduce our witnesses. first, the esteemed doctor, the assistant administrator for weather services and director of the national weather service. in this role, he is responsible for the day-to-day civilian weather operations for the united states. his territories, adjacent waters and ocean areas. prior to this, he served as the director for the environmental protection for 14 years.
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he was responsible for directing and planning the science, technology and operations related to this group. he was the director of national weather service's office of meteorology from 1994-1999. and section head of the analysis and modeling section at the goddard space flight center laboratory for atmosphere from 1978-1989. our next witness is mr. cardell johnson. he's the acting director of vao -- the natural resources and environmental team. he works on the federal
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government's management of natural resources, including national parks. -- coastal and marine resources, endangered species and water supply, and national services program. prior to joining, mr. johnson served as the director of quality assurance at usaid's office of the inspector general, where he developed the organization's framework. he also worked at the epa as a budget analyst. and in the office of the inspector general. mr. warner is president of the national weather service employee organization, as will as the lead forecaster of the weather forecast's office in
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mobile, alabama. he's served -- for the past two years. in addition to lead forecaster him about, he -- lead forecaster in mobile, he leads projects in aviation. prior to joining the nws, he served 24 years as a meteorologist in the united states air force,where he held numerous positions, including the following -- the chief of weather station operations, the special air force command, the director of space scientists, and chief environmental simulation team at the air force -- of climate policy.
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our next witness is mr. eric --. are they here? well, would you like to introduce him? >> thank you. i appreciate it. i want to extend my warmest welcome to eric, the associate director of education and outreach for the extreme events institute at florida international university in miami. fiu is a top-tier research university located in my district in miami with over $237 million in annual research activity. he personally has over 25 years experience as a broadcast meteorologist, providing continuous coverage for hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding. at fiu, he has focused on
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outreach, reducing the impact of natural events. i have seen firsthand their impressive research there on storm surge and engineering. in fact, their wall of windows one of the two supported facilities dedicated to wind research. he's also a member of the meteorological society, the national weather association. he earned his degree from northern illinois university, as well as a b.s. from the university of illinois and meteorology. i look forward to hearing from him and how fiu can assist now and in the future. thank you. chair johnson: as witnesses should know, you will have five minutes for your spoken
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testimony. your written testimony will be included in the hearing. after testimonies, each member will have five minutes to question the panel. >> thank you committee chairwoman johnson -- thank you, chairwoman johnson and members of the committee. it is my honor to testify on the current opportunities for the national weather service. to say i have seen significant change at the weather service would be an understatement. i entered the national weather service in 1989. at that time, paper maps were still being used. at the center i came into, there was no digital capability. today, we operate in a completely digital environment, accessing data from the entire
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world of enterprise in providing advanced prediction guidance from model systems ranging from short range forecasts to seasonal predictions, covering the domain from a sun to the states. the national weather service saves missions into water and climate services commit a mission statement that includes analysis, forecasts, warnings and impact based decision support services delivered by forecasters from along the southwest pacific island states to the middle atlantic ocean, and from alaska to the caribbean. it's the northern hemisphere. we have made progress in predicting extreme weather and water events, now out to a week in advance in some instances. as we learn from the 2011 severe weather events, we also need to go beyond warnings. we have to address connecting
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this information to decision-makers, emergency managers and public safety officials before, during and after extreme events. from the tragic events in 2011, the concept of a weather ready nation emerged and is now embraced by not only the weather service, but by the entire weather enterprise, especially as we approach an impending weather event, we all work together. we work to ensure that accurate inconsistent products and services are provided to all public safety officials at all government levels. we work together to save lives and property based on information we provide that is tied directly to their lifesaving decisions. this is done through the impact based support services that go to the public safety officials, directly. [indiscernible] our success to build a weather ready nation is noted by a
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decrease in fatalities from extreme events. these are included in my written testimony. this demonstrates how we can raise the idea and its concepts that success is based on the trusted relationships with emergency managers and other public safety officials developed over the past 10 years. at the same time, you helped us make structural changes to the national weather service budget and planning process, and together we created our portfolios to align with executing the field forecast process, exhilarating science and technology advances into the national weather service from the larger research community, and at the private sector, and addressing critical facility needs. the entire budget process is designed to support and advance our people in the field in order to meet our mission. we also work hard to streamline the hiring process and increase our staffing levels to a point now that we have not, seen since 2015 with an increase of 150
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staff since 2017. we have also placed a renewed emphasis for our workforce to better reflect the communities we serve. our research and modeling has kept pace, and in some cases have led to the rest of the world, but we have a long way to go. our push forward with the unified forecasting system is well on its way. we have created the earth prediction image center, epic, to accelerate that process with research to operations, and we have been improving our systems and helping blended models as the per step in the process that will help the forecasters get the products out faster, and unlock time directed toward the idss. on the eve of my retirement, i could say that i am leaving the service in a better place than i
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found it. i have briefed you on many issues over the years and i have watched as your confidence in us has returned and deepened. your support of the national weather service is invaluable, and we will need that support even more now as we move into the future with more extreme events fueled by the warmer climate, such as the record recent rain falls, flooding, extended and flash droughts, to wildfires, extreme heat and cold, and of course the destructive hurricanes at making landfall along the gulf and atlantic coast, and severe weather outbreaks that have devastated suburban and urban communities. all of which points to the importance of the impact based decision support services which we have now recently added to the national weather service mission statement. so, serving our nation and deleting the federal government's finest most dedicated workforce has been my privilege and my profound honor. i will be watching the national weather service with respect,
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pride and gratitude for everything the most dedicated employees in the federal government bring to their jobs every day, and a big thank you to what you do to empower them. thank you. chair johnson: now mr. johnson. >> ok. chairwoman johnson, ranking member lucas, and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to discuss the national weather service and its staffing challenges. although the national weather service has followed many leading practices for effective reform, these efforts could benefit from additional actions and continued attention. my statement today discusses opportunities for the agency to enhance leadership and to better
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involve employees and key stakeholders in reform efforts. i'll also discuss long-standing human capital challenges that may hinder the agency's reform efforts. the first opportunity for improvement is enhancing leadership focus and attention. the national weather service stood up a program management office to oversee the implementation of agency reforms, however, the agency' approach to staffings with the capacity to implement the reforms. key leadership, rotational or part-time, in five years and seven officials rotated through the director role. also, some staff found it difficult to balance workloads from competing priorities. this rotational and part-time staffing model resulted in
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disruption to projects and increased risk of reforms failing. according to one senior official, these reforms are one of the most important things the national weather service is doing, but nobody is assigned to do it, so we recommended the agency revise its approach to staffing the office to improve leadership and staff continuity and capacity for its reform efforts. the second opportunity to improve reform and limitation is better involving employees and stakeholders and the process. the concern is that some staff did not feel the agency was being transparent about the reforms. and there are also concerns the agency has not communicated with staff adequately about the reform efforts. and there are concerns that the reforms could lead to office closures and job losses.
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our work found the failure to adequately address issues related to people and culture can lead to reforms being unsuccessful. therefore, we are recommending the national weather service develop a two way communication strategy that outlines how the agency will listen and respond to employees' concerns about the reform efforts. in addition, the national weather service will need to address its capital challenges. vacancies in hiring our long-standing issues that could affect their capacity to implement reforms. in, 2017 we found that vacancies and a lengthy hiring process led managers and staff to take on additional responsibilities, work additional forecasting shifts, adjust for canceled
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leave plans, and as a result the officials have said that managers and employees have suffered stress and reduced morale. so, in conclusion, we do recognize that that the national weather service has taken steps to reform its operations and workforce, further addressing leadership and staff continuity, capacity and broader staffing challenges, as well as effectively engaging key stakeholders would strengthen the agency's reform efforts. and by doing so, moving the agency closer to achieving its vision of creating that weather ready nation that's responsive and resilient to extreme weather events. chairwoman johnson, ranking member lucas, and members of the committee, i am happy to respond to questions. thank you. .
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chair johnson: i'm sorry. thank you. we will go now to mr. warner. mr. warner: good morning. thank you committee members. the national weather service employees represented -- represents 30,000 employees nationwide. these are the folks are responsible for the nation's forecasts and impact based decision support services at the protect property and enhance the national economy, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. all year long. now, despite an expanding
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mission, the national weather service has fewer employees and then it did 10 years ago. most are classified as emergency essential. this could lead to serious consequences. following 13 major storms that occurred between 2000 8-2018, found the ability of the national weather service to protect lives and these events was compromised due to an adequate staffing at weather forecasting offices or centers. according to a 2015 study conducted by the mckenzie company, the -- at forecasting offices exceeds the meteorologist workforce. in may of 2019, -- or in may of 2017, a study requested by members of the committee revealed the vacancy rate in the operational units has reached a point where employees are unable to perform their tasks. they found that staff experienced stress and reduced
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morale from their efforts to cover vacancies. according to the gao, the national weather service managers admit that employees are demoralized because they had to cover the workload for multiple vacancies. now, since the gao studies were conducted, understaffing has not improved. the chart shows the number of nonmanagerial employees onboard, over the past 10 years according to the data from the national weather service routinely provides to us. the latest data is from july of this year. we received updated numbers yesterday. so, as of september 25, there has been a slight increase to 3400. now, the employees organization has from the outset supported the concept of impact based decision support services. going forward, we need to appropriately resource it with
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staffing. adequate staffing is critical to keep partners in the emergency management community at all levels of government. one initiative afforded by management to free up more forecaster time is the use of the national blended models. it is a starting point for the database. we are not sure at this time how much processing time this will save. we believe they challenge with using this as a starting point is making sure the forecast is not degraded by the loss of expertise that experienced forecasters added to the process. as reported in the media, the national weather service's researcher has proven to be unreliable. but we are encouraged to see that the house appropriations committee recommended a funding increase of $37 million in the budget to improve this. a robust infrastructure is a must. another factor that may hinder the building of a weather ready nation is the unequal
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distribution of experienced forecasters and employees. and employees departing from the national weather service, due to the lack of mobility. both of these are the result of the implementation of the 2019 meteorologist career ladder progression. the focus has been placed on filling vacancies and not on maintaining a healthy balance among the meteorologist staff at the offices who have had a large turn over during the past couple years. and we need to try to retain current employees, many of whom are frustrated due to the lack of opportunity to move to a more desirable location, and now they are considering careers outside of the national weather service. i want to thank this committee for their support of employees. and aside from our significant resource and process challenges, i believe that the national weather service, along with the rest of noaa, is a fantastic
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organization with an unparalleled mission, supported by employees whose dedication and passion are second to none. chair johnson: thank you. this is our final witness. >> thank you members of the committee. it's an on her -- an honor to represent florida international university. we are to share our insights. investments from the state of florida and federal partners, including noaa and the national science foundation, have advanced our research here, and has dedicated the wall of wind as one of the nation's deep major experimental facilities under the engineering and -- pr
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ogam. we are privileged to have the national weather service miami office on our main campus here. our international hurricane research center was designated the very first weather ready nation ambassador in south florida in 2014. here is a snapshot of how a weather ready nation has made impacts to south florida. weather ready nations are noaa boots on the ground, taking preparedness into the community with our partnerships. this includes high visibility public education events like the eye of the storm and successful hurricane exhibits in fort lauderdale. and the website, which speaks to the country's changing
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demographic of and partnering with the national hurricane center on the hurricane awareness tool. our k-12 program prepares the younger generation for a weather ready nation. this includes teacher workshops and the wall the window challenge, which inspires students to pursue stem degrees by challenging team to develop innovative concepts, which are then tested at the wall of wind. many top research universities like fiu are weather ready nation ambassadors, and we literally take our science to the people. here are research has a purpose, either we reduce risk or risk will reduce us. through our joint hurricane test center, fiu's model is helping the center with forecasting and we are collaborating to develop a coast support system in the caribbean region.w we work with the environmental
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modeling center on improving hurricane forecast models, specifically rapid intensification. and alongside usaid, we are also focused on disaster risk assessment in latin america and the caribbean. while building a weather ready nation is a team effort, fiu's success comes from a multi-partnered approach, working together with noaa and the national weather service. as we move forward, here are some thoughts on how we can work with congress and noaa to strengthen the future of a weather ready nation. continued collaboration investments to enhance whether -- weather research to improve warnings, storm surge modeling research to improve public evacuations, and social science research to improve the links between the national weather service products and the public's understanding.
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the best forecast in the world is useless if the public does not take the needed action to protect itself. also, the future workforce. we believe this is our destiny. noaa has a great opportunity to collaborate with existing research university partners, in particular urban and minority serving institutions like fiu, to recruit highly skilled and diverse workforce. communicating ready waiting this -- weather readiness to more diverse audiences, noaa must reach these diverse audiences. the spanish-language website is only one example. and of vulnerable populations. embrace building a weather ready nation for all, by addressing vulnerable populations' needs and resource in equities. -- inequities. it is all about people, families
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and their livelihoods. thank you. chair johnson: thank you. i want to ask to submit a letter from the president of the emergency managers in support of the national weather service, and on mr. uccellini's tenure in the weather service. without objection, so ordered. first, the questions will begin. and eye will recognize myself for five minutes. what concrete steps is the national weather service taking to address racial and diversity gaps in the workforce? mr. uccellini: we have renewed our focus on the issues, not
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only from a weather service perspective, but from a noaa perspective. we're showing success in that regard in the number of women and minorities we are bringing into the national weather service. and we are actually not happy in the sense that we always strive to do better in these areas. so, i think it is important to focus on what we are doing now to improve and to retain. this is also an important issue for both women in the national weather service, and minorities -- we are seeing retention rates that are not acceptable in the minority area, so we are working on those issues as well. chair johnson: why is having a
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robust, dynamic and diverse workforce critical for advancing weather forecasts? mr. uccellini: we embrace the notion that we need to look like the communities and that we serve. and the nation itself is becoming more diverse. i think everybody recognizes that. it's important to us, because we have largest segments of the u.s. where spanish is the primary language, so we have to deal with those issues. we have our urban environments that are vulnerable to heat, as an example, antipollution. -- and pollution. we need to work with those communities that suffer from that. having stated that, we have shown success in areas over the past 20 to 25 years in working with indigenous people, the
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native alaskan communities, the tribal nations, the southwest pacific island states. so, we believe we have a foundation to work from, to address the issues as they are emerging today. chair johnson: any witness who would like to comment? ok. the national weather service initiated a series of reforms in 2017 to help it achieve in building a weather service nation. two of the goals are to free up staff time and improve service to partners. these initiatives are in various stages of completion. the 2021 report makes recommendations on the national
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blind model. mr. johnson, do you think that that is the most important step the national weather service needs to take to implement these reforms? mr. johnson: thank you for the question. we think that successful reform is rooted in having leadership and staff capacity, as well as effective communication. the most important step at the national weather service is to provide that leadership and staff continuity and capacity to the program management office at that oversees the implementation of these reforms. that continuity and capacity is to ensure that the organization has the tools, skills and resources to see these reforms through. at the same time, they national weather service needs to
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effectively engage its employees and key stakeholders. that will help employees and stakeholders understand the nature of the changes and take ownership of them. yes, the important step is having that continuity and capacity, and effective communications. chair johnson: ok, the staff and hiring issues from the report are long-standing. what do you think has been hindering the weather service in making more progress? mr. johnson: to be fair, these reforms are difficult and hard to do. and it will take some time. with that said, there are two issues -- the staffing and transparency. with respect to staffing, the national weather service has had
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challenges long-standing with workforce continuity. our work has identified the increasing vacancy rates, the link the hiring process, and challenges with workload. so we see the need for the weather service to complete a workforce analysis to address those, and the national weather service has recognized this and it is on their plan to do. again, i would go back to with respect to transparency, the need for effective engagement with stakeholders. what we have heard is the national weather service has taken steps to communicate information, but the staff we have talked to has said that posting information to the intranet page is not really sufficient for the massive amount of changes taking place, and they are concerned about the potential impacts. so, we would recommend to
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address the transparency that they develop a two way strategy that will outline how they will listen and respond. those two things, they transparency into staffing, if they address those, we believe they will be able to move forward. chair johnson: thank you. i recognize our ranking member, mr. lucas. rep. lucas: doctor, it has always been a pleasure having you testify. we have worked together on the best policies to improve weather forecasting for the better part of a decade. so i want to take a wide angle and kind of looked backwards before looking forwards. and you can be as specific as you like. my question is, what has the weather active 2017 meant to the weather community? mr. uccellini: um, i think that
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the weather act has been the most important legislation and indication of support from this government in my entire career. which spans 50 years. we embrace the weather act and all five titles or all five pillars of it, to move not only the weather service forward, but the larger enterprise forward, including the other components of noaa, the research satellite components especially. it has been an enormous foundational basis for moving forward since it came out in april of 2017. it has been tremendous. one of the examples is our big
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that the forecast is not end with the morning and authorizing us over all government levels. we have embraced that, and i would say our workforce has embraced it, and we have been very transparent on this. i have visited more than 120 offices and other leaders in the weather service are right up there next to those members as well, engaging with the workforce for hours, in the office and over dinner, which goes on for hours because we are trying to be transparent here. this idea has been a critical reform in going beyond the forecast in the morning and engaging decision-makers. and i believe we need to continue on that track. the commercial aspects, the private sector, the tsunami
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aspect, the seasonal and a sub seasonal -- all the above, it has been a tremendous boost for us. rep. lucas: we live in a cynical time, but the fact is we do good work and this committee did good work in 2017, and i appreciate your acknowledgment. looking from this point forward, what's your observations about what is missing from the weather act, and what is still needed in the weather community to maximize our forecasting ability? look forward now. mr. uccellini: well, we are living in a time when -- we can visualize the impacts of these systems, the intensity of these weather systems are increasing. we are seeing it in the fire
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aspect. we do not have fire seasons anymore, we have fire years. the extreme heat and extreme cold. the flooding. the rainfall rates. we are seeing extratropical attitudes where the u.s. -- itself. the last flood in new york city, this was the first time that i have been able to find that subways have been flooded from rainfall, surges off of the ocean. so we are living in times where the demand for what we do is going to grow, and it is going to be a central for people to respond to -- essential for people to respond to these types of events. the research community has to be involved. it is an operational issue, with respect to the technology and science that we have to bring into our operations to address
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these kinds of systems that have not been observed before. and we have the social science issue that connects our warnings to decision-making and accounts for the risk factors. how do you communicate these impacts on something that people have not observed before? that is a big task, to get people to respond. that's not only on us, it is on public safety officials at every government level that have to work these issues. rep. lucas: thank you for your decades of public service. there are good people in all branches of federal government and you are a classic example. i yield back. chair johnson: we will now move to the staff to recognize members. >> thank you
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. thank you to eyewitnesses. as someone who has worked on the weather research and forecasting innovation act of 2017 with mr. lucas and others, i appreciate your question mr. lucas and i appreciate the response of mr. uccellini. i joined my committee colleagues in requesting a study from the gao regarding the national weather service's efforts to modernize. in its most recent study, published in response to our request, the gao found the national weather service had adhered to effective reform, but has not adequately implemented several recommendations, including a communications strategy that listens and responds to employee concerns. so according to the study, the nws officials planned on finalizing a communication strategy by the end of fiscal year 2021, which ended a few
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weeks ago. please explain how the lack of a clear two way communication strategy has affected members of the national weather service employees organization, what improvements you want to see, and of a more effective two wake mitigation strategy. -- way communication strategy. mr. uccellini: thank you. there is a lot to unpack in that. we have started communicating over the past year, but there has been a lack of transparency. >> if you do something in a vacuum in the top levels, then come down, it may not translate well into the field. i think that it is a benefit to get the synergy, you know, come up with a vision and idea, but integrated the whole process from field offices, to the national level, so everybody is on the same page of where do we want to go. what's the best way to implement
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this? we talk about the national blended models as being a timesaver, but we have been using the blended model for 10 years in the extended forecast, other regions using it for five years. these are not things that have not been tried at the grassroots level to improve time. so, communication transparency is absolutely important. i think that everybody knows that if the information is not flowing, then the rumors start, so we need to have that open dialogue and be transparent on what we want to do, and let the employees decide how are we going to do that. let them be involved. >> i look forward to further information about how changes will be implemented. in the past three decades, we know the u.s. has sustained more than 300 weather disasters, more than $2 trillion in cost, and climate change has increased the
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severity of these extreme weather events. in the pacific northwest, and my home in oregon, we have experienced heat waves that killed hundreds of people. clearly accurate and accessible forecasts are more important than ever, and technological improvements have increased the accuracy of warnings, but there are still reliability issues. in march, the network of nws crashed and impeded service to its lifesaving resources. it is used by thousands in real time. but last year noaa released a strategy that outlines goals for accelerating its service integration, so explain the progress and a timeline for integration of the national weather service data into a commercial cloud platform and elaborate on the extent to which the information upgrades will prevent future outages and failures. mr. werner: i want to thank the
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hill for providing extra resources in the fiscal year, our increase in our dissemination effort. mr. uccellini: we were finally able to get the plan through the system and up to the hill, that we have been developing over the last several years. that does include a cloud smart approach to how we are advancing our capabilities. with respect to, i think you were referring to the part of our dissemination program that involves the chat, the ability to chat, not only within the weather service but with our partners. it's a very critical function. and with the resources, we are not only dealing with the transition of what has been the legacy system developed many years ago, which was not
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transportable into the new technology, so we have used the resources to transition that. and we are about one month away from the launch of that chat. we have about, we just started in october with the demo for being cloud-based and we will go another several weeks, then assess and make decisions from that assessment. we take a very systematic approach to any changes in our operational systems. so with our users fully engaged,
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as we are doing with this demo, including the emergency management community, but others also. that is an example. we're also transitioning functions that have been under dissemination platform, that can perhaps be moved on to other platforms. our first effort involves the multi-spectrum development efforts. and we have seen success in that and we are now considering other functions as well, as the resources are made available. these transitions of systems takes resources in we take a very careful approach with this. so those are examples. >> my time has expired, but i want to thank you for your years of service. you have had an illustrious career and we all appreciate
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your work and we wish you the best. mr. uccellini: thank you. >> thank you, chairwoman johnson for holding this meeting. and doctor, thank you for your years of wonderful service. as it stands now, the centers of coastal science are the leaders in forecasting. they have developed a system for monitoring and quantifying algae blooms in coastal into league regions across the country. what rule does the national weather service play in this forecasting, especially when it comes to severe storms like hurricanes at that have an effect on algae movement? mr. uccellini: we partner with the national ocean service, that
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actually runs of the forecast models for the bays, coastal areas and harmful algae blooms. we work with them in terms of providing the computing capacity, for example, to around the models on what is looked at as the weather operation models. the reason is and they need weather parameters from our own models to actually drive components of their prediction system. after the forecasts are made, we have positioned the relative forecast offices, and this has been embraced in the local offices and embraced by the workforce, to serve as a service outlet in a sense, and work very diligently with the partners there, and with the people who
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are receiving the information that make decisions, like along the gulf coast in florida, and also inalso in lake erie. there are quote unquote operational systems, we work with them to deliver those forecasts and make decisions accordingly. >> thank you. can you think of the national weather service's ability to do forecasting, what else we might be able to do? >> the science and the abilities lie in the national ocean service and the ocean and atmospheric research group, for example the great lakes environmental research lab. i could say that we learn from them, it's been a learning experience for me, and
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recognizing that they will be blooming in freshwater lakes, like in lake erie, would be more toxic than what happens along the coast. you have the combination of lake okeechobee water and others coming together, providing these blooms over a two to three month period. from a service perspective, we are working with them to make sure that we can get the connectivity with the local decision-makers that need this information, whether it's for water, fish, shellfish, whatever. it's a true partnership within noah bringing this ability to the service pipelines, into the communities. >> how important is it to understand ocean interactions
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for weather forecasting? >> oh, it's one of the main factors we have to work towards improving ourselves in the future. it's not just the atmosphere, it's the entire earth system. earth science. atmospheric coupling is an incredible component of that. i was handed a bumper sticker that said, if you like your seven-day weather forecast, thanking oceanographer -- thank under oceanographer. that's been in my office now for about 82 weeks? but it's true. the cochair of the world meteorological organization, for the efforts to bring the ocean and atmospheric communities together, asked organizations to address these issues into the future. the united states is truly
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working on a global issue. we have to bring the entire approach and the entire earth's systems forward to advance capabilities. >> thank you so much. i see my time has expired. i yield back. thank you. >> -- is recognized. >> thank you. i want to thank the chairwoman and the ranking member for having this hearing. in california, and in my home district and northern california, the sacramento region, we have been dealing with devastating wildfires, as has the whole west coast and the united states. unfortunately, it is becoming the norm. maybe this is a question for dr. uccellini. the high winds coming through northern california are leading to electricity shut off decisions. can you talk a little bit about noaa and the national weather service, the role they play in
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providing some of that information for these shut off decisions, which do affect large swaths of northern california, and what research we might be able to support to provide better decision-making on these shut off decisions. dr. uccellini: well, we do provide our forecasts, we make it available to all. all components of the commercial sector and of course, the public safety officials, government officials that have to make tough decisions. i've sought forecast information directly from the models, directly from the national blended models. the forecasts that come from the local offices, which are all consistent and they all are more of a tailored approach to the community. many, if not all, of the utility
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companies now have their internal meteorological groups or they have private sector firms that provide information. those private sector firms, we work in partnership also to ensure consistency and what we are putting forward. with respect to the decision process that the utilities make, they have the information stream to them, and one of the things i could say as an enterprise, as community, we are able to make these forecasts are extreme events and extreme wind events with a greater level of accuracy and certainty, out to a week in advance. i imagine there is tremendous leadtime and risk assessment that is going on inside those utility companies to make those decisions. we are not part of that decision-making process.
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we are providing the information into it. they tailor it and make those decisions, but as an entity, the leadtime and accuracy for these forecasts, it's been clearly marked. >> may be for any of the witnesses, also, my home district, sacramento historically has been a very flood prone region, and you wouldn't know it today if you went to fulsome lake. we are living through one of the worst droughts certainly in the years that i have lived out here. how far in advance -- maybe for dr. uccellini, what can we predict the upcoming weather season is going to be like and how can we use that in other
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countries? dr. uccellini: what we are seeing from the national academy of sciences, for example, in june 2020 and other engagements with the scientific community, we not only have an operational prediction challenge, getting into these extended tight --, we have what is called the predictability challenge. there is a level of project ability that rapidly confines, as you get into two weeks and beyond. that is a factor of the atmosphere that really loses its protect ability fairly quickly. one of the big challenges that we all face, whether it's the research community or operational community, is how to engage whatever predictability there is and the signals we have, directly from the models
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or tracking things like the mattie and julian oscillation, the el niño/letting --el niño/la nina pattern, we realize there is a lot of unpredictability involved in that information. but the users demand it. society is trying to make decisions based on what is happening in your state and water supply. we are bringing the information as best we can with the level of uncertainty involved to those users to make difficult decisions. >> i see my time has expired, so i will yield back. thank you for your service, dr. uccellini. >> dr. weber is recognized?
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>> dr. uccellini, it's a tribute to your service that you have signed up -- that many ambassadors have signed up to have a weather ready nation. your expertise and leadership created and helped coined the term "weather ready nation," which in texas, i don't know if we ever [inaudible] but you understood, nonetheless, that this was an opportunity program for increased engagement and partnerships with the private sector, weather forecast companies, with members of america's weather and climate industry. we have wholeheartedly supported the weather ready nation
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program. if you could take this time to speak to the partnership between mws and the private sector weather forecasters and how they work closely with the national weather service for building that weather ready nation. could you speak to that please, sir? dr. uccellini: yes, i would be glad to. we recognize that assessing the public safety for the weather service to address the public safety mission, you've heard comments now from the gao and others, we don't have the resources to even optimally, with all the issues there. you will see private sector firms are now working with us through the chat function, collaborating, actually, or pass through our warnings at times
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when they didn't even five years ago. we are recognizing the need to work together for consistent messaging, and the private setter will -- sector will take that and orient that to specific customers across the wide berth of activities, agriculture, energy, water supply, etc. on transportation -- i think the partnership is essential. we cannot do this alone. when we designed the weather ready nation as a strategic goal and brought a vision on how to get to that goal, the first thing we heard back from the national academy of public administration, when they reviewed it based on a congressional, on congressional language, they said hey, this is a great strategic outcome. you can't do it alone. you're going to need other agencies, the private sector, you need the academic community. we are getting into social
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science, to be able to communicate risk. all of the above. the success of this program will depend on our partnerships. i might add, i can tell you from a global perspective, the private-public partnership in the united states is looked on as the gold standard of the world. other parts of the world are wondering how we do it. quite frankly. i will just say that. one of the other reasons i am braced that, because we can't do it all. i watched the students come out and get jobs, and it's really delightful to see that. thank you. >> yes, thank you for that. you are to be commended for your service. we are taking applications here in texas. dr. uccellini: i'll think about that. [laughter] >> thank you. i yelled back, mr. chairman. -- yield back, mr. chairman.
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>> the gentlelady is recognized? >> thank you very much for this really important hearing. it touches to the core of something that we have experienced and dealt with here in michigan in a very visceral way, which is in where we have been hit with storm after storm after storm for the balance of months, oftentimes without any ability to have warning, thunderstorms that turn int o tornadoes, thunderstorms that turn into super cells, businesses that open and then have to close again. unbelievable power outages and certainly very pertinent, as we are just getting ready to pass
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some incredible infrastructure and sustainability legislation. but relevant to today's hearing, the ability to predict. certainly, i want to put the onus on all of you, right? how can we better predict the super cell storm, rapid high winds that knock over our big, big beautiful trees in the city of farmington? neighbors telling me, we did not even get a warning. more so, i want to ask, and maybe this is a question for mr. soma as well as mr. carl johnson, all the tools and technologies that will enable us to better predict -- is there training we should be putting in
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place at the county or the local level in particular, when certainly i have been hearing dr. uccellini talk about some of these challenges with the national weather service. at the university level, certainly, and mr. johnson, from your gao study, is there the opportunity to better predict? mr. somas, if you would like to start, that would be great. >> thank you very much. there are a couple of ways we could look at that. one thing used within the research community, with noaa and universities, it's a great collaboration where we collaborate with noaa and
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national hurricane centers to test that, and respond to certain restrictions. that collaboration of the academic risk, the government agencies has been very successful. also, our connection with the national science foundation and the national research and infrastructure program. we don't want silos. we want collaboration. it brings people together. when you have an open forum, for example, we can test not only for hurricane force winds, but we can settle for a lower speed wind event. i think that's one way to look at it. that leads to fulfillment in the
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models, and we talk about the weather forecasting model. >> [inaudible] >> thank you for that question. the work that we have done since 2017 to now really hasn't focused on looking at the partition, but how the national weather service is managing efforts. this is where the weather service is focused on the national blended model, and having a good, common weight for developing forecasts, to be able to predict information and get that out through impact-based decision, to support to have that leadtime.
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we know they are doing work to refine that model, there have been some concerns about the accuracy of it and working with certain terrain or weather conditions. the weather service is aware of those. they are engaging their employees on the technical aspects and making those refinements, it may help with the predictions. thank you. text thank you so much. i yield back. >> thank you very much, thank you madame chairwoman and ranking member. i also want to thank the witnesses today. this is very interesting. i have the honor of representing southeast texas, from houston into louisiana, which unfortunately has been the center of devastating, 500 year
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floods that seem to come almost yearly now. for years ago, hurricane harvey dumped the sink -- single largest amount of rainfall in our area in recorded history. mine and randy weber's district, which is right next door. we have had several hurricanes, tropical storms, leaving much of southeast texas underwater, etc. this kind of weather not only destabilizes thousands of people, but has enormous implications on our federal budget. this leaves the taxpayers responsible for colossal bills, the need of recovery, investing money in litigation efforts, which seems to be incredibly wise, which could save billions of dollars every year in damages . since hurricane harvey, there has been a -- to help
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communities be better prepared for extreme weather events. if i -- if the extreme events institute is at the forefront of helping with technology that it strengthens -- that strengthens response, improves recovery and mitigates risk, can you speak, in a short answer, to the importance of mitigation efforts and how these models such as in florida could be transferred to east texas? >> thank you. >> yes sir. >> that's the key word, right? another one of the words is mitigation. for every one dollar spent on
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mitigation, we save six dollars on cleanup. we have done that with testing infrastructure related to building codes, improving on building codes across the country. they can be replicated in other regions of the country, especially between states. we have this model in florida, with the state and the office of insurance regulation. that's the model that you can predict the damage costs could be following the storm. that is a tool that will verify and show you, if you do this kind of mitigation, look at the savings you are going to make. this is how we have to save. we cannot ease things as we
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have done in the past in terms of how we build. because our exposure has increased across the coastline and in southeast texas, that exposure is there, putting people in harm's way, so we need to get them protected, we need to get them prepared. vulnerability, that is what we need to look at. how can we strengthen building codes for preparedness and safety, and working together with emergency management team members. >> thank you very much. serving as the ranking member of the -- committee, i am interested in the collaboration efforts between nasa and noaa, particularly the long-standing issue of research and operations. dr. uccellini, as director of the national weather service, you are aware that the nws is the tip of the spear for operational weather forecasting.
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you recently announced your retirement after decades of service, and i want to thank you for that. you've done an excellent job, and may this -- made this country a lot more secure and confident but recently, after your announcements, is there anything you think that you could have done better to enable that research to operations transition, but were unable to do for one reason or another, out of curiosity? if you would like to elaborate on that. i would appreciate it. >> you are looking at someone who researched the operation, i worked with nasa for 11 years. i established a research career and came over to the operation world to learn about the other half of the equation. one of the things that i did with my leaders at the space
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flight center, we established the joint center for satellite data simulation, and it has been helpful in bringing satellite data to us, but also preparing us for the future operational data we now implement in the models. that not only includes the national weather service, but the satellite service component of noaa and other researchers throughout the community and it's really been a tremendous success. but there are other things we can do. nasa has established an organization called sport, don't ask me to define the acronym, but they have done research on our operational systems in every state forecast center. what does that do? allows us to get those advancements into the local forecast offices and the national centers faster. we have been doing that for
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fires, for floods, etc., etc. we have a strong relationship with nasa and i hope that noaa and nasa continue that linkage as they move forward. >> excellent, thank you very much. with that, madam chair, i yield back. >> the gentleman is recognized. >> i think the witnesses -- thank the witnesses for their testimony this morning. it's interesting to hear the evolution of the weather service and what you've been able to accomplish over the years. so, my first question will be to dr. uccellini. over the past few years, california has been devastated by historic wildfire seasons.
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these programs are critical to helping our fire managers and commanders. you mentioned in your testimony, the ims is being stretched too thin, with only 80 trained ims forecasters and more in training. dr. uccellini: we have been increasing the numbers and making them more available to these offices and to these areas that need to be coordinated, across the group up in idaho. that's our folks get assigned. the fact is, we've just set a record this year for the number of ims employments, but we have been increasing those numbers and training. one of the stress points on us,
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with the fire season growing in time, i think the fire community calls it a fire year now, that impacts the training. the downtime, we used to use the downtime for training, continued training, because they have to be certified to be on the lines with the firefighters. these are really brave souls that are out there fighting the fires and the ims is right with them. we have that kind of issue, but we have been seeing this trendline to get the numbers up, these ims are located in offices across the country. they fly in and go into the fire areas. we are increasing the numbers, we are dealing with the struggle on time to make sure they are all certified through training, and this year we have met the
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record, basically, have broken record numbers. yeah, it's a stress point, but it's a stress that we are addressing, i believe. >> very good. we expect the need for ims to be growing over the next few years, especially with fire season coming around, or fire year, as you put it, coming around. are you specifically addressing that need or plan to address that need? dr. uccellini: yes. we are working with the administration, which has cited us as a priority. we are working with interagency approaches to this and responding to needs accordingly, but are adjusting this to train more ims and make them more readily available, as requested. >> what about the statutory pay limits for federal workers. is that a long-standing problem
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for your agencies? dr. uccellini: it has been a problem. every year, we do work through the different problems -- they do get paid, but when you hit up against it, let's put it this way, there are things that happen that we have to work through. we can work proactive with that, and i can believe we have a smoother process in place to address it. it's not just us working as an individual agency, we have to go through top of government to deal with this issue. of course. -- > thank you, absolutely. we greatly appreciate the congresswoman for introducing i believe a bill that will help our meteorologists with the wildfire therapy act. you get up to a point where
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wildfires are so frequent that they hit the pay gap and can no longer be deployed out there anymore. if we get that, we will release the pay gap. there are folks very dedicated and we will continue to work to support the folks on the fire. >> what other obstacles are there other than payload limits. -- limits? >> i think because of the frequency, we need more employees and to get them takes time -- get them trained takes time. and a pay gap. or folks work on these fires and are putting in 16 hour days but they do not get paid for that until may be several pay periods later because the system doesn't react quick enough to make sure that shows up in their paycheck. >> thank you. my time has expired and i yield back. >> thank you.
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mr. bay at -- esther barrett is recognized. if there is -- mr. barrett is recognized. if there is no mr. barrett, we move on. >> thank you for this timely and excellent committee hearing at thank you to the witnesses as well. doctor, i want to thank you for your service and leadership over the last several years and what you have brought for our country, the national security issues more than anything else, very important what you are all doing. i want to touch on what street johnson and wister -- mr. warner were consistent about in their testimony, specifically their written testimony. they are hitting at fundamental problem right now within the national weather service, and that is the staffing issues they
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mentioned i'm looking at your budgets and see continued growth from fy 17 to fight to anyone. i do not think it is a funding problem necessarily. i do envision certain scenarios where you can have increasing budgets and lower staff count needed as a result of technology evolving, efficiencies improving within that technology system. based on some of the written testimony, the staff is validated and confirmed that we are well below what is necessary. i do have a question about wildfires, especially in the west. i want to put more on your plate with wildfire prediction and modeling and sort of public utility companies locally. i also want to give the doctor an opportunity to talk about what are the causal factors and potential remedies.
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it sounds to me like the staffing issues and getting people on boarded is a problem. is it a retention problem, recruiting problem, process problem in the hiring process? how do we incentivize people to stay and come to the national weather service of that we can get back on step two where the staffing levels are matching the mission statement we are providing you all. >> so that is directed towards me? >> yes, sir. >> just wanted to make sure. just want to make sure -- to ensure everyone, and this was also reviewed by the gao, to our new budget process we implemented in 2015, the polio process, where there is staffing at each -- portfolio process where there is staffing
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at each. we have been diligent in identifying not only the needs on how many people we have held we support those people getting the job done. that is a balancing act within the budget process. the budget process involves going through the executive branch, trying to get the requirements met through that process, and bringing it to the hill. the final part of that is we have to show our budget plan before any of the money is allotted. we do list the number of ftes. those counts are not up to what they probably should be. we go requirement by requirement but that is what the money will buy. from an fte count and from those programs and activities that are needed to actually support -- train them, get them the local travel, that they can meet with emergency management and you can
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go down the list. we got reviewed by the gao on that and we were found that we do follow the amount of money allocated. there is no impoundment of funds from what we have to pay our people, but the g.i. overview -- gio review was specific in terms of following the budget process, and -- >> doctor, not to cut you off, i only have a minute and i want to clarify my question. are we saying this actually a budgeting problem? because the precipitous fall if an nonmanagerial's, nonsupervisory employees that the doctor presented shows we went from about 3900 fte's down to 1300 yet we are still understaffed and dr. johnson mentioned the hiring process
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itself is taking too long. i want to make sure we are looking at this clear out -- clear eyed internally. i'm trying to put more on your plate with wildfires that we can talk off-line about but internally, are you happy with the hiring processes and the ability to get ftes on board in a timely fashion to support your mission requirements? >> yes. if i may, i say we are at 99% staffing, which is pretty high staffing.
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>> mr. bowman is recognized. >> thank you very much. dr. sweeney came up with the 99% and what they have done is not used what is in the payroll organization which the gao used, i think they called it an organizational table in the 2017 study they didn't like the way the national service was
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moving people around. for some reason, they knocked the number down based on what they consider active positions and inactive positions why only they can explain that number is 4623. by the organizational table referenced in 2099% -- 2017, we are not to 99% staffing. there are hundreds of candidates bidding on every position just about that is out there so there are a lot of folks who want to participate and get a chance to serve the public and protect lives and property, so they are out there, you just need to bring them in. >> thank you, sir. i yield back. >> mr. bowman is recognized. >> doctor, thank you for your many years of service and congratulations on your upcoming retirement.
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thank you for highlighting the devastating impact of disasters like hurricane ida which killed a total of 40 people in new york state and let to the destruction of funding and homes in my district. is your view, given unprecedented events like item will keep happening, what specific improvements are most imperative now that can help prevent the heartbreaking loss of life and damage we saw in new york? >> one of the things is that when a situation like this happens, we, with the emergency management community of first responders, our job does not end when that event ends, we get back right away, what can we do better, what can -- what happened on this particular case, what are the lessons learned. we try to get the turnaround rather quickly because you are right, it can happen again.
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ida was an unprecedented event, the first time we have issued a flash flood emergency for the entire area of new york city, part of nassau county to the east, part of other counties to the north, and this is the most extensive urban flooding new york has experienced. how do you prepare for something like that? if it will happen again, when will it happen again? we have to practice it. even if it is a rare event now, it is a high impact event we will have to be ready for and we will learn have to message that -- learn how to message that on not just us but how will the community respond to an event like that. so this is something that is a continuum not that episode is over, we just move onto the next area that gets hit by rain.
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we are looking at these types of events to learn from them. from a forecast and response perspective and doing it in partnership with the emergency management community. >> thank you very much. my next question is about stem education and climate drops. thank you for your testimony. as a former teacher and -- principal, when we talk about green jobs and whether casting may not be the first thing that typically comes to mind but it is a perfect example of a career path that was intellectually stimulating and essential for our future. at the same time as we pointed out, all of our children and tomorrow's adults need to understand the climate crisis and be able to identify and reject this information. i'm wondering if you can expand on this testimony to ask plane how the national weather service and other agencies can improve their own long-term capacity and
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effectiveness through investment in children and climate education. what kind of long range thinking and planning to be needing here -- do we need here so young people are prepared for a wide range of stem careers and thrive on a hotter planet? >> thank you. certainly it takes a team effort as i described to but on the education front, one thought is when it comes to whether preparedness and safety, in the curriculum that the elementary and middle school -- at the elementary and middle school level, there can be increases so we can get the education at the younger age, elementary through middle school, then to high school. that is so they can get into this preparedness and knowing all about safety. that would then instill more into the stem careers and meteorology and climate study.
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at the college level. taking it through the younger level and getting them educated about it and getting them excited about it as well. programs where the weather ready nation ambassador program where we went and worked with school and the national weather service and the universities, we do bring students. we bring in students of all ages and do weather stem events where we try to get very interactive, immersive, and show them how exciting it is to get into these areas. at the same time show them how important it is for their future as well. >> thank you so much. i yield back. >> mr. barrett is recognized. >> yes. thank you, madam chair and ranking member and all of the
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witnesses, for being here today. it's interesting. i always learn something from these meetings. my first question, doctor, i really respect your service to our country and the things you have done, but my first question goes to the idea that we use high-performance computing, including our emergency capabilities to lead sensory integration and ai, and to those help the national weather service enhance their predictions? and how does this enable communities to mitigate the impacts of more frequent severe weather events? >> if i may, in answering that question just note that there are really three fundamental components to making a numerical
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prediction system where. making it work operationally at 99 point 9% reliability, which we do with backup computer. you have to have the computing capacity to do that. historically, weather protection has been one of the main drivers for what we now call supercomputers. one of the original drivers for that back in the 1960's, 1970's, and 1980's is still one of the main drivers. so you need that. we need global observations. i would like to say all forecasts are local. you want to know what is happening in your backyard. they are all driven by global observing systems. even at the one-day marker. that is where the importance of the satellite coverage comes in, for example. and other data sets. you don't is have one golden data set that can do it all. you have to have a collection of them. then you get into the science and modeling for the data
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simulation and running models themselves, postprocessing the models to extract the information from them. those three fundamental components is what we are in the middle of and we are in partnership with the larger community to make that happen, private sector, academic communities, larger research labs, other agencies, all of the above. with respect to the aai, machine learning is becoming important in several components of the model process, the postprocessing and extracting the information from the observations to get into the models, in a way they could be used to predict enhancements. so we are there. we are there with of that science and technology, we are the benefactors of it, and moving forward, we rely on it to not only do today's forecast but to prepare ourselves for the future. as you can see from this hearing, it will be increasing
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demands on what we can do to serve society because the weather is getting more extreme and the climate is a large part of that. the vulnerability is because we have more people also living in more vulnerable areas. all of the above is contributing to increasing needs and the modeling system, as i've described, will be a key component in moving us forward. >> so continuing in that vein, are you -- does your agency have access to the department of energy's supercomputers. i have three of the five fastest in the world. >> so there are resource components of our agencies that have access to computers but the department of energy of our previous attempts to get some operational models onto their
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systems, to be tested on those kinds of computers -- because we go through a 10 year cycle with three-year blocks in there to try to stay on top of the computing capacity advancements and computing technology that we see as we are now going toward the exit scale type abilities. but the department of energy does not lend itself to having operational models on their systems. for either test or use. i would like to see something done in that regard. i have attempted several times in my career, but i have not crossed the finish line with that effort. >> thank you very much. looks like i have about five seconds left. i wish i had time to ask questions of the other witnesses, but with that i yield back. >> mr. foster is recognized.
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>> thank you to the chair and ranking member and to our witnesses. i would like a -- like to also echo my congratulations for his service of our country. we are both graduates of university of wisconsin, guided by the wisconsin idea, meaning we should "never be content until the beneficial influence of the university reaches every family in the state." as explained by adlai stevenson the second, "the wisconsin tradition meant more than a simple belief in the people, it's meant safe and the implication of intelligence and reason of the problems of society. it meant a deep conviction that the role of government was not to stumble along like a drunkard in the dark but to light its way with the best torches of knowledge and understanding that we can buy." there can be no better
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embodiment of the wisconsin idea. as someone who grew up in wisconsin, i have to say there are things going on there that i do not recognize. they seem to be and that occult to the wisconsin idea and everything it except -- everything it exempts. that can't help with recruitment challenges we are facing. i want to urge every young person with an interest in stem to have a look at the doctors career on what they can do with their stem skills to better. when i was a child, someone was killed by a tornado at our family loft start a few miles away, windowed in in madison. as a result, my mother bought an
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emergency radio warning box and she was always careful to test to make sure the battery was still alive on it. 30 years later, in the city of plainfield district that i represent in illinois suffered one of the most devastating tornadoes. and in nearby communities in the district i represent face to their most severe tornado in nearly 50 years, graded an ef three. because a timely warning was able to be issued and help local authorities prepare, not a single life was lost. the destruction caused by the tornado was devastating but this really constitutes the success of our nation's weather forecasting systems, which exist first and foremost to keep us safe. so i would like to, and my questions, i would like to return a little bit more to the ai aspects of it.
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there were newspaper stories about it, i think it was deep mind has won some contest for getting the best performance for local short-term weather forecasting. i was wondering if you are seeing the same trend in your supercomputing more toward wanting ai than traditional vector pipeline machines, are you seeing a shift in what you will be asking for for the next generation because of ai or do you end up much wanting more of the same? >> actually, we were one of the first operational leaders in the world to go from vector machines to parallel processing. we have been in parallel processing mode since 2001 and led the way on that. the artificial intelligence machine learning is certainly something we are paying attention to, involved with, and it will influence how we operate
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i think over the next -- especially over the latter part of this decade and a sense we will be growing it and using it and it will influence our next-generation computing. you've got that technology and also have the cloud technology. we use the systems so much that we will probably stick with an internal cloud-based system like we have now, but we will see. things are changing fast. from an ai and machine learning perspective, we are working to noaa making accelerated advances in use of that type of an approach. >> if you could recommend turning up our investment in getting a higher data point, higher density of data points throughout our country in the world or more cpu flops, where is the highest return on
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investment there? >> those three components i outlined, the only -- outlined, you are only as strong as your weakest link. when i took over the service in 2013, we had capacity in which i could not transition models from the research component -- we had models sitting five years before i could fit them onto the machine with all of the other responsibilities we had on the machine. we were way behind with the europeans had for model capacity. it was one of the biggest issues we face. we are comparable now. so the point is that if you take away from any one of those components, cpu, the science, global observations, it will slow down our move forward. sorry to say that to everybody wanting people to make a list that has priorities in it, but you are only as strong as the weakest link when it comes to
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the models. >> will thank you for everything and my time is up and i yield back. >> thank you for your kind words . i do appreciate the wisconsinite. i was transplanted into it from new york, where i grew up, but i certainly assimilated into everything i learned there and taking that into my dedication to public service. >> mr. [indiscernible] is recognized. >> thank you for the witnesses for being here today. as a lifetime resident of the great state of oklahoma, i know a thing or two about extreme weather and the importance immediate of weather reporting. just yesterday morning at 5:00 a.m., we had tornadoes touched down in my district. my family was alerted because of the importance of things the national weather service does. i recognized weather can change
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with only a moments notice and it is important that people at noaa have the technology available to predict and prepare for these impacts. i recently introduced hr 53 24, the noaa weather modernization act to update technology to ensure no one is left behind during weather emergencies. speaking of maintenance, updates for weather services and technology. the budget reconciliation piece that came through this committee contained $743 million for deferred maintenance for noaa while the administration budget requested only 450 million. that is obviously a large difference toward maintenance that we heard little about. doctor, what are some of the national weather services priorities for maintenance and is upgrading infrastructure and facilities important or is keeping them working in functional? >> we have a separate portfolio
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for our facilities to what i say houses the weather service. it is the smallest portfolio that we have, and i came into a situation in which maintenance of the facilities themselves were put on hold and we made that a priority. early on, the infrastructure. i would say that it is still an issue, we are still catching up on the facilities but we are also trying to -- some of these facilities we own, some we rent, when the lease comes up we are looking for opportunities to co-locate with partners. i think this is an important factor that we look at, we take advantage when the opportunity presents itself, so we can get
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the resources to do it. it has proven to be a big success. that is one way of dealing with it, but we still have to maintain -- albany is a great example of it, opening up the new building, co-located within emergency management colleague, the weather office across the street from emergency operations. those are the kinds of things we are looking for, but we have to deal with the maintenance of the facilities we are in today and the infrastructure for our i.t. and dissemination program as well. that is the budget balance we are trying to work with as we work up through the system. >> to add onto that, and let me say my apologies to mr. warner and mr. johnson for focusing some of these questions
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to you and not giving you necessarily the time that -- talking about the storm prediction center at the national weather center and radar operation center in norman, do you think they are meeting their full operational capabilities or could they use additional maintenance and upgrades? >> both units are really fantastic units. we do have the next extension program in year seven of an eight-year. on time and in budget. the really incredible upgrade to the entire system and they are totally focused on it. at the same time, we are trying to prepare for the next generation radars. it is in that research area, which includes the oh ar, -- oar, we need to take a look at
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because there's an interest in accelerating a way into the new generation of radar systems. so there is that, but in terms of operating, i think we are ok there. we have advanced and sustained great work. the storm prediction center has -- their staffing is secure, they move forward, they are there. i would say that as -- it has been a long severe weather season but we have had the great activity and fire activity, they have put the extended forecast out for the atmospheric conditions for fire, there are similarities besides the lack of moisture of course. i think there are stress levels that will develop in that area that will have to be looked at. >> thank you. my time has expired and i yield back.
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>> miss moss is recognized. >> thank you so much and thank you for holding the hearing. chairman bert johnson and ranking member lucas and all of the panelists for joining us today for this important discussion. my home state of north carolina is particularly vulnerableno torth weather like floods and hurricanes -- vulnerable to weather like floods and hurricanes. that is why prompting from the national weather service is critical to protecting live personal property and our infrastructure. as we saw with the well forecasted yet still deadly 2011 tornado season, exceptional forecasts alone cannot protect lives. rather it would require, as we discussed, a whole of government approach where the national weather service collaborates with local officials, individuals, and organizations responsible for making public safety decisions.
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i look forward to talking about ways to increase this collaboration and i want to build a little bit on what representative bowman raised about inspiring the next generation of scientists and forecasters. here in raleigh, north carolina, we have a newly renovated science museum that has the nature research center that has a component that focuses on the weather. it brings in schoolchildren from all over the state to have hands-on experiences. it also encourages citizen scientists. i would like to know from the doctor and maybe from mr. solma what your experiences are and collaboration on the community helping not only
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publicize weather events but also to help with public safety. >> ok. i guess i will go first. i'm a firm believer of the citizen science aspect. my participation in the meteorological society now for almost 25 years of continuous work with their education at the k-12 -- k-12 and what can be brought to their programs not only from the museum point of view but real-time data so the kids in the classroom can start making forecasts to see whether the school will open in the next day. the citizen science -- at citizen science, we have the co-op observing program and it has formed the backbone of the
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-- we have a subset that provides information for the climate statistics for this country. i get the opportunity to award these families that have been involved now for 75 years the thomas jefferson award, 50, 70 five, it is just incredible to see the dedication all over the country of families that have passed this ability down so they do not lose sight. because climate registers are important if you can keep the site maintained at all of that. it is phenomenal, and having those award ceremonies, we do it virtually, has been a plus because you get to see the excitement of what these people bring and they still talk about their grandfathers and great-grandfathers or grandmothers who went out in blizzards to get that daily observation, right? it is really an amazing part of
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what we can do and we are trying to build on that because this type of technology -- everybody's got observations they want to share with us and in real time that can make a big difference. all i'm saying is it is a component that we embrace where we can and certainly a big fan of it. >> mr. salma, do you have anything to add? >> i want to jump on the science aspect. we have a big event called ivan storm, all about hurricane preparedness in science. we bring that event with all of our partners, emergency management, american red cross, all of the agencies coming together in a science museum environment that now brings a very immersive fund to kids, moms, and dads where we can this into the museum in a very
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effective way to kick off our hurricane season in south florida, but the science museum in every community, they are taking high-level science and local level university or research institute to the community and that is why we put that there two to explain the importance of engineering. >> thank you. i yield back. >> mr. finster is recognized. >> thank you, chairman johnston and ranking member lucas. thank all the witnesses for your testimony today and sharing extensive research and experience on these important subjects. doctor, i am working on legislation that aims to create a research development evaluation program involving a national weather service and noaa as an administrator and it would focus on technology-based
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solutions to mitigate issues caused by radar obstruction. the key portion would involve consultation with the interagency for advancing meteorological services. the department of commerce and noaa are vital members of the council but also includes input from the departments and agencies. can you elaborate on why it is so important to have the department of transportation, defense, energy, and others at the table when meteorological policy and practices are discussed? >> i would say it is important in general because their use of the information -- they use the information as well. as we make all of our observations and forecasts readily available. in general, it is important to have them at the table with respect to the radar obstruction issues. we too are -- we track the
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quality of our radars every day and we assess on an annual basis with respect to obstruction issues, for example, relating to growing trees are now working with the research institutes and some of these agencies with respect to what is happening with the winter farms in the central part of the country that has now caused obstruction within the return signal coming back to the radars. these are problems that are very complex, so you have to go where the science is but also deal with the folks in the community that have to rely on other things like wind energy and what that would mean. so we are in that mix, attempting to work with these folks, have been rather
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successful. we realized we have to solve these issues. there might come a day that, especially in some areas with trees, that people build buildings that we have to move, we have to move them somewhere else. that is an expensive proposition. average $10 million a pop, so we don't do that lightly, but there are those examples already where it looks like the only solutions when we get into this obstructive view is to move. very rare but can happen. >> i appreciate those comments because as you noted, i live in iowa and we have a lot of wind turbines which are fantastic, but they create some obstacles. last month, when we had the administrator testify, i asked him about the radar obstructions and technological solutions.
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one possible select solution -- one possible solution i raced to him, he looked at radar rays as possible weather detection and focuses on the future legislation i'm working on. could you explain for the benefits of phased array radar that can benefit our current systems? >> yes. one of the major benefits is with the way the faith ray radar works is you don't have the rotating parts or the extent of the vertical scans which all takes time to observe and is a process. it could be minutes into when we first put it out it was a five minute period to process the data. with phased array, it is out and in. it is a real fast access to the data. minutes count in a tornado warning, so there is an advantage. one of the disadvantages is --
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one of the advances we have made is something called dual poll radar, not just laterally but it is the vertical aspect of it which has allowed us to see better into the clouds and structures of the rain shafts, the potential rotation, the debris flow that signals a tornado on the ground canal to be observed, the site -- the type of precipitation falling, the rate, it is all enhanced with dual pole. not in the phased array yet. that is a research issue. we have to be careful moving forward with these and we are. we do believe phased array radars is the call of the future. we have to ensure the research and technology adds to what we can do now and is not a step back from that. i'm sure the science and technology is going to bring that answer to us, but we have
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to go through the steps. >> thank you so much for your comments, thank you for your work, and each person that has testified, thank you so much. i yield back. >> mr. chassidy is next. >> thank you so much. thank you to chairman ranking member and to our witnesses. i would like to introduce [indiscernible] a july temperature update, if i could have unanimous consent on that. i will take that as a yes. dr. hansen's work is somewhat speculative but basically makes the observation in this paper that our success at reducing particulate pollution may be we have dramatically understated future warning as we are taking particulate out of the air and
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that has an immediate effect on cooling, even as reducing co2 has a longer duration effect. the kicker is we should expect the global warming rate for the quarter century to be about double the .18 degrees celsius per decade rate. that is a bit of a gut punch. doctor, i don't want to confuse clients -- client science. if from a computational perspective, if we are seeing an acceleration in the rate of warming that quick, how much do you trust our computational tools and the weather system to model scenarios that are increasingly outside of the rado we have -- outside of the
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data we have historically collected. -- collected? >> that is an interesting question. the equation we use in american weather predictions are the basic physics in dynamics that are also being used in climate domain. we are accounting for now aerosols, particulate matter within these models, that to get at the issues that you are referring to, and this is jim hansen, right? >> yes. >> i have the greatest respect for him, and he really has a lot of foresight, so this is something worth listening to. we will need higher resolution models to effectively deal with the feedback mechanisms he is referring to. from a point of view of a daily,
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weekly, and monthly type forecast, we will need high-resolution models to deal with that kind of feedback mechanism. one of the things about the warm atmosphere that i'm concerned about is in terms of predicting, and even determining, the current precipitation rate with radars, these equations have statistical postprocessing on past events. in new york city, -- you don't have any past events that had 1.4 inches of rain that we got from herey and then more two weeks later. so exactly the physics of that and how that is working is another part of the researcher equation that we are going to have to look into.
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and that is for observations for short-term forecasts and for extended forecast. -- forecasts. it's one of the challenges we will have to embrace and i call it the grand a challenge because it will basically take the whole community to deal with this in the weather, the water, and the climate communities to collectively study these issues and to allow us to make the advances on an operational basis. >> i know a lot of my time i have been asking you about staffing levels. assume we can solve the computational issues, should we be thinking about this primarily as a computational problem or is it also a stuffed problem to go through and ask the questions we have not asked for? >> i think this is relevant to the staffing because it will increase demands for products
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and reservation even on some things that you brought up, that perhaps did not have the full attention today as we become more susceptible to some of these feedback mechanisms, it will manifest itself in events that affected society. once that starts happening, you will see the weather service in the middle of this in terms of making better forecasts but also getting that information to decision-makers that could likely go beyond the emergency management and water resources we manage today. the public safety lens will grow, and we will be dealing with that as well. so yes, i am not disagreeing that there is staffing, we could get more staff. first of all, i live with appropriation, my first rule, and we have to show to you folks that this is really needed.
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i am a firm believer that our services are going to grow and it will be not only us but the whole enterprise. i want to get inside with the private sector will be doing in this space as well. i think this is the road for the entire enterprise. >> i appreciate the chair for letting you complete your answer. i'm out of time to continue but i yield back but not before wishing you a happy retirement. >> mr. elzie is recognized. >> for those who don't know, mike garcia and i flew together in the navy in combat in 2003 so we and the end users of the product the national weather service has delivered. it is essential to our success, so as a formal navy eater and commercial air light pilot until recently, weather forecasting has played a critical role in my job. i related by data provided and i
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am forever grateful to these men and women who work around the clock to delever -- delever the data. it's essential in enhancing our national economy and security. after hearing and reading your testimonies, i believe congress must equip the organization with tools to better forecast weather events and communicate the findings with the general public. i would like to also point out chairwoman johnson and i back in december 26, 2015 were hit with a massive tornado. since we are in the middle of tornado alley that jumped over my house and -- while i was on a trip in los angeles, my family was hiding in a closet, and it spurred me to invest in tornado shelter at our home. so this problem is not going away. it is extremely important and as a former airline pilot for a company that recently had issues
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with both weather and manning, i would like to address this to minister warner, since the management and labor issue has always existed, there is always a tug-of-war between the two, you have identified a problem that in your mind and your -- mind you are understaffed and the construct with your workgroup is not helpful. if i'm wrong there, please expand on that, and what are your solutions on getting the staffing up to the requirement you need? thank you. >> i didn't quite get the last part of the question, the gs construct. >> gs5312, i think you said that was not working in the way it was intended. i would just like your thoughts on it. >> i think with regards to the staffing, let me start with this, we totally embrace impact decisions to support services.
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let's forget about numbers. we have been operating in that mode continuously for a number of years now. we keep talking about possible unlocks to free up time. we have not really fully realized those because things are in the process of being developed. we tested out, what will and will not work. there is hypothesis of what will come but there are increasing demands on the services that we provide. that is great because we realize at the local level, that they really had a benefit. most key decisions are the local level with the emergency managers and county health professions because they are the ones that make the decisions that wind up protecting the community. so we are fully invested in that and i see the strain out there, i see lack of personnel in offices, people that have worked over the last five years, 1000 hours of overtime in one year. that is not sustainable. we have created new capabilities
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in a hurricane center, we made operational via storm surge unit there for better employees. it became operational. last year during our busiest -- most active hurricane season ever, these two folks during the pandemic put in over 500 hours of extra time to support the mission. thank goodness. so this is real. as far as the five to 12 construct, that is a construct where the whole focus -- and it should not be the whole focus -- is bringing bodies in but we need experience, right? i was learning not long ago of an office that had out of their staffing of eight meteorologists they were down three. so they only had five now, and of the five, only hitting full proficiency of the gs 12 level, there was only one or two at the level. and the office always has an
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elite forecaster, someone who is gs12 and proficient, and that person -- and that puts a burden on the office. we step back and say when we have it offices that do not have this experience, we need to stop. we have to put out the announcement to allow 11 or 12 to move there or opening up this. you can do it in steps. so you are still feeling the spots. i spoke about this in the paper, prior to this construct, we had another construct where we had people that reached an internship and only would have two to three years under their belt and would apply the position at will. when it started, they got shut out so they have people who went ahead and worked the researching and came back to weather and there are some places they don't have back in weather.
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so they are frustrated and are moving out. >> thank you for your time, mr. warner. my time is up. i yield back and happy retirement, thank you for your years of service. >> thank you. >> miss wilde is recognized. >> thank you very much. good afternoon, everybody. my district is pennsylvania's seventh district squarely in the lehigh valley of pennsylvania for those of you who know pennsylvania geography. we recently experienced a rash of flooding and damaged infrastructure as the aftermath of hurricane ida toward -- t oured through our community. we had flooded roads, lack of power, and serious debris that made it difficult for businesses to reopen, for people to get to work and school, and for the first responders to get to those in need after the storm.
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i appreciate each of your testimonies so far on how we can make our country a weather ready nation and i believe one key part of the theme is ensuring extreme weather and disaster warnings are accessible and understandable to stakeholders and the public in the face of such events. i know all of you have talked about that to some extent. in addition to emergency managers and first responders, key service providers like our transit system, health care systems, and schools seek timely and accurate information to prepare for and respond to disasters. in preparing their families and homes, for storms and floods, the public needs a quick access to well contextualized information on the timing, location, and severity of extreme weather risks. i have a constituent organization in my district in eastern pennsylvania that is working to answer these
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questions through social and behavioral research. the group has received noaa grants among other agencies. this research can help inform how all levels of government can make disaster and extreme weather planning communications and management to meet the needs of the mission that congress laid out of protecting lives, property, and the national economy in the weather research act of 2017. i would like to start with the doctor. can you discuss how the national weather services uses social and behavioral science research to strengthen its decisions for community and emergency management art nurse. -- management partners? >> yes. with our going beyond the forecast warning to interact directly with decision-making and influence that, comes the
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recognition that we are influencing the field of social science, dealing with exactly how to message to get the best response, how to design products and services that map into specific key decision points, how to deal with the changing risk reference that people have, even going to a forecast from 10 days out to the actual event, people have different risk preferences. even the emergency management community will have a different tempo as you approach an event. everything is affected from a human factor's perspective. so we do have now -- we partner with other agencies, we partner with offices within noaa to leverage off of their social science research. we have a small amount of work that is done in the weather services, more focus is -- more
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focus on products and services and assessing our messaging, etc. we have always got -- already gotten feedback on simple finding over the next one to two years. this has become increasingly a bigger part of what we do and what we need. certainly with the organization you referenced, there is work done on focus on how to respond to water events which is different than weather events. there are different aspects to it. it has been helpful to us and certainly has been a part of the successes we have seen toda -- we have seen to date but we certainly have a long way to go. >> i will shift gears because we have limited time. mr. warner, based on your experience and members feedback, what type of training, professional development, and other resources can support the employee pipeline, especially for new hires and young
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professionals at the weather service? >> it basically requires a degree of meteorology, meteorologists and folks interest in -- interested in higher ologies. also folks that are electronic technicians that come in and physical scientists. the big thing we need to do is go out and sell ourselves, go to the schools, show them what a career in the national weather service is all about. we do that sometimes at the local office then we did prior to the pandemic. we would go to high schools, colleges, and what does it take to get into this career, and what do we do? participate in the forecast, look through this weather radar scenario, what interests you and one of the requirements to get there? which we don't say but they are laid out, and how do you go about doing that? did i answer your question? >> thank you.
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it is probably an open-ended question we can talk about all afternoon but i think you much for your input. with that, i yield back. >> ms. kim? your recognized. -- you are recognized. ms. kim is not prepared. we will go with ms. stansberry. >> thank you for convening today's important panel.
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thank you for your service. as we all know, our communities are experiencing the impact of climate change and extreme weather events. these events are becoming more frequent including in my home state of new mexico. the national weather service plays a pivotal role not just in forecasting, but increasingly in climate forecasting. in order to enable our communities to plan for and respond to these events and our changing climate, it is vital we are able to accurately model and develop tools and technologies and be able to translate and deliver that information to our communities so it can inform their decision-making on the ground. this includes those responding to emergency situations as we have talked about so much this morning.
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also planning for and elting a more sustainable infrastructure and future for our country. our partners need resources to ensure that all parts of our country including my home state have sufficient staffing, technology, funding etc. for real-time observations, forecasting, tools, and to provide that on the ground technical assistance. like so many parts of the country, this year has punctuated the need for those investments in new mexico where we have been simultaneously grappling with one of the most severe droughts at the same time we have experienced the highest number of disaster declarations ever in our state's history due to flooding and wildfires. we are very much appreciative to the national weather service who has been a fantastic partner in new mexico and provides resources to our state and
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partners through the workgroup and all of the services that you provide. new mexico needs more support. we need more observational platforms, including things like net for improving forecast. to help support our public safety and decision support. we don't have enough monitoring systems. we have severe limitations in our local weather forecasting. we also need more support for our flood alert systems especially in urban areas which are experiencing more severe weather incident. just as we have been talking about all morning, we are also facing staffing shortages locally which impact our forecast and drives talent to burn out quickly and leave the field. the national weather service does perform outreach to the communities and the schools, but there is so much more we need to do to create a strong stem
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pipeline so that new mexicans can also take part in forecasting our future. here in our state, we are home to communities that have lived on these lands for centuries. our communities are experiencing and seeing climate change before our very eyes. we need to make sure they have the opportunity to not only have a seat at the table, but also to build the robust stem workforce across our communities. we see that as being part and parcel to building the workforce through our universities, tribal colleges, and also partnerships with national labs who are at the forefront of climate science and modeling. i urge all of our federal agencies to look at expanding programs in new mexico and particularly at our minority serving institutions and to partner to build that pipeline
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in communities. i look forward to working and supporting noaa and weather service and l committees work on these issues and we know how critically important our weather and climate forecasting capabilities are to the future, safety, security and well-being of our communities. with that, i would like to ask a couple of quick questions. one of the big challenges from a science perspective is how to make that transitional leap between weather and forecasting so we can close the gap. to help our communities prepare and plan for the impact of climate change especially with extreme weather events. what i wanted to ask you this morning is how can we help support the scientific and technological advances that are needed close the gap between weather and climate forecasting? how can we hear in congress help
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support that work of the weather service? mr. uccellini: we clearly need support in that the weather climate linkage is being recognized as a fundamental issue that we need to build off of and address. you can't make advances in the weather domain space or the water domain space or the climate domain space without the interactions amongst all of them. this is something that we are really promoting as a basis for moving forward. it certainly applies to the southwest. a monsoon whether you get it or not, i know it's a big deal. that's a forecast months or years in advance that people plan around. that's a big challenge. we understand that.
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it is something we absolutely need to do. we really have shown success in our partnership with tribal nations across the country. that is the success again built on trusted relationship among the weather service personnel and the tribal leaders and the people out there. we are proud of that. again, it's something we need to build off of because all the things you just mentioned. those threats are multiplied when you get into the tribal domains or the poor areas of any state. impacts are amplified. this is something that is in our planning to do more of as effectively as we can. >> thank you and i know amount of time. we look forward to working with the weather service and as you
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move forward doing planning for staffing, and the staffing issues that you have discussed, that you will lean into partnering with minority serving institutions because that is the future not only of our communities, but the future of federal service. i want to thank you all and i appreciate you being here this morning. >> ms. kim is recognized. >> thank you very much chairman and i would like to thank our ranking member for holding this timely hearing. tomorrow, i will be preparing to host a wildfire roundtable discussion. this is very timely for me. at our wildfire roundtable discussion tomorrow, we are looking to find cooperation of the system between federal,
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state, and local stakeholders and see how we can alert and predict mechanisms of wildfires and emergency response and public safety. i really appreciate the conversation today. i represent california's 39th congressional district and my district in southern california where the air quality is poor due to smog and wildfire smoke during the wildfire season. as a result, as you can see, the individuals with heart disease, lung disease, diabetes as well as children the elderly and pregnant women in my district are at risk of these health complications due to poor air quality during welfare season. it is really important that we discuss accurately forecasting wildfire smoke. it is not only an environmental issue but also a public health
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issue. what is the current state of our ability to predict smoke output and transport from a wildfire? what questions do we need to answer in order to include smoke forecast models? what does improved smoke forecast mean when it comes to public health and safety? mr. uccellini: it is a very important part with regards to the health equation when it comes to smoke. we have a number of models when it comes to particular matter and smoke directly. a very high-resolution model has been implemented over the past several years, what we have seen the output from those models on tv in terms of the movement of the smoke. we have made great advancements in the satellite program. the satellite component of noaa.
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and launch of these satellites with high-resolution advanced baseline imagers. the smoke observations that come from them with incredibly high-resolution has been phenomenal. another aspect of those is being able to spot the fires. it has become one of the earliest indicators that you have a fire in your neighborhood is what we are seeing on one of these images. we are there in providing the observations. with air quality forecast, whatever we produce we provide to the states and the local communities that make the air quality assessments and related protections. we do have the tools, the improved tools to get to them. are they good enough from the health vector perspective? that's an interesting question.
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it's probably another basis for an extensive research effort to be able to have the more exact quantification of the nature of the smoke, the size of the particles etc. to be able to relate those. it is certainly an interest in terms of the larger medical community of what can be done to assess locally been use the predictions to assess what is going to be happening downstream from those fires. >> can i ask you frankly, how accurate are the national weather service forecasts? mr. uccellini: we are doing -- the forecast for the particular matter and smoke is relatively good. i don't have the numbers in front of me, but they are is
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good as the dynamics in the atmosphere that moves the smoke and particular matter will make it. it has been pretty remarkable. i have been one of the main proponents when i was the head of the national centers for environmental prediction, we introduced these models working with epa and with a research component of noaa in boulder producing the high-resolution versions. i think it's a pretty good product already. like any other forecast system, there are always areas that need to be improved. i could guarantee you there are researchers in boulder who can articulate them for you. >> i wanted to talk about the next generation of scientists because my home state's economy
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relies heavily on the stem workforce. would you allow me time to ask another question? >> if we have a second round, we will come back. >> thank you. i yield back. >> thank you to chair johnson and ranking member lucas for offering this discussion. i know it's an important role that the weather service place in our country security. i thank you for that and i think the witnesses for offering information to us today which is very important as we go forward. before i begin, i acknowledge
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the doctors 43 year career in public service as well as his nine years of leadership at the helm of the national weather service. you dedicated over 50 years of your life to the field and are leaving a legacy that will have a lasting influence for generations. i indeed wish you the best. for you and the team at the national weather service, thank you for your reliance on and your respect for science as it is indeed critical as this nation addresses its national security and response to the challenge of climate change. for many years, i have been deeply concerned about several matters within the nws. specifically workforce issues and the reorganization of the national weather service forecast offices. i greatly appreciate the incredible and essential work but the nws does. however, i have concerned -- i
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have remained concerned for some time about the hiring backlogs. in 2017 report, some weather service staff said that because positions remained vacant for extended times, they were concerned that the agency might be intentionally leaving vacant positions open to downsize the number of staff across operational units. does the national weather service intend to downsize? mr. uccellini: no. >> in fiscal year 2016, the vacancy rate at the operational units was 11%. what is the current vacancy rate both funded and unfunded vacancies? mr. uccellini: i have the number with respect to what we are appropriated for and what is in our spend plan.
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the money that was being allotted. we are up to about 99% now. the baseline being what's in the procreation -- appropriation bill. not the table that dates back to 2000. if you allow me, i would like to say that it has been since 2017 that all the stars lined up with respect to the processes, the hiring processes being improved within noaa and within the weather service. and being able to to use programs to get more people into the weather service. we have 150 more people in the weather service today than we had in 2017.
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this is related principally to the entry-level coming through the program. mobilization doesn't change the bottom line. it moves holes from one office to another. what we want is staffing that can do the job and we are working hard to get that. >> i appreciate that. mr. warner, you implied that in your opinion there are vacant positions and if that were the case, how would that impact the weather services livery of accurate forecasts? mr. werner: it stresses the staff. the big thing is we wind up having to move what we take on. what's frustrating is you go for a time and you have a partnership where you are providing the services, there's an expectation for partnership. then suddenly you are shortstaffed two or three bodies
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and you no longer have the critical mass to do that. you have to pull back. that to me makes us look poorly as a partner what we are trying to build relationships and better serve the community. >> the 2021 gao report recommended that the national weather service develop a two-way communication strategy for the evolve program that outlines how the agency will listen to and concern -- respond to employee concerns. when will this communication strategy be finalized and released? who is developing it and will it have buy-in from employees and union members? mr. uccellini: the strategy aspect, first of all since 2018,
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we now have cba and i thank mr. warner and his leadership on the union side and the deputy director of the weather service got together and pulled that together. part of the strategy is wrapped up in that we do invite new aco to the table as we move forward. there are times that we are not in agreement and we attempt to work through that. there are discussions going on between the folks in the pmo and the union to bring us forward. it is something that we are working on. part of this involves the staffing plan that would come
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out of trying to address the increasing demand signal that john rightfully pointed to. we are certainly in solid agreement on that. the question is, how do we get that to the point where that can be funded along with everything us we have to do? i want to assure you that we are working on these plans. we are working to advance ourselves and to advance our staffing issues within the budget that we are appropriated. >> madam chair, i had two other questions that i wanted to ask. i will get those to the committee in writing and in advance i think the two gentlemen for their responses. i yield back. and again thank you. >> mr. beyer is recognized.
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>> dr., let me offer my congratulations and i hope you have plans for your retirement. i would love to know what you end of the weather service are planning for in terms of the critical weather events to come. the global temperature has risen 1.1 degrees centigrade. the last time the earth's surface was this warm was 125,000 years ago. that's not the bad news is their best estimate is three degrees centigrade. that is another two full degrees centigrade from where we are now. but all the things that we have heard -- it will break the 1.5
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mark which is the paris thing between 2035 and 2037. what can the weather service do now to get ready for evermore dramatic weather events, more dramatic changes in the ability that is forecast to come? dr. uccellini: we are certainly aware of the increasing vulnerability that our communities are facing with respect to these extreme events. whether it's the coastline, winter storms, hurricanes, inland with droughts, the flash droughts that are now becoming more prevalent in the northern midwest, the heat. we talk about the northwest part of this country, there were heat
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events this year that rivaled the records that you see in phoenix. it is really stark. and of course, the fires burning faster and hotter, impacting society. where trying to step up our game with respect to the ability to forecast the extremity of these events which will likely grow. to deal with the vulnerability of the communities, we have to work in partnerships. this is the key. those public safety officials, the water resource management. one of the things we recognize and this gets back to john's concerns, most of the decisions on public safety in this country are made at the local levels.
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that was published in 1838 and it is still true today. we have to provide this consistent and accurate information to all government levels, but it is the local presence this going to be put under extra stress in terms of dealing with this whether it is us making forecast in the mornings over an extended time or the public officials on the ground evacuating people dealing with the community issues to react. all of the above, we are all going to be challenged. >> thank you. mr. warner, we talked about the vacancies. white 98 days? -- why 98 days? i am in the private sector and i can't imagine taking 98 days to hire anybody. mr. werner: i don't know why it takes that long.
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supposedly, it has sped up somewhat. i think our system was broken and they're trying to get better. i have no idea why takes that long. i think it should be a lot quicker than that. there is a mechanism that we should be using called the know what reassignment opportunity noticed that gets people in quicker because there are already employees to take care of the experience gap. why those are going to take 98 days, i have no idea. >> wise it still so long? dr. uccellini: the process involves getting the announcement out, adding people to apply, getting it reviewed. going to that process takes a month or two.
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then, you have to go through the security checks. there are so many resources, it's not just a problem with the weather service or noaa. 98 days is a marked improvement over where we were before. i would also say that there are people that are in school that need another month. that adds up to the average time of when you actually fill the seat.
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let me assure you that we are not the private sector that is able to do that. we are finding ways to accelerate where we can. >> i yield back. >> charwoman johnson, all of the members of asked questions. i think you can close out the hearing whenever you are ready. >> do we have time for a second round? >> that's entirely up to you. >> let me suggest perhaps that those who had questions, another one of the members already said they did. i only heard maybe to the said they needed time. if you will submit your
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questions to the committee, we will then submit them to the witnesses. let me say thank you to all of our witnesses. this has been a very dynamic hearing. i appreciate you spending your time with us. before we bring the hearing to a close, i want to make sure that every witness receives a hearty thank you and appreciation. the record will remain open for two weeks for additional statements from the members and for additional questions the committee may ask the witnesses. our witnesses are now dismissed.
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>> coming up today on c-span, the confirmation hearing for chris magnus to head u.s. customs and border protections begins live at 9:30 a.m. eastern. at 2 p.m. the house returns for legislative business to work on bills from the energy and commerce committee. on c-span2, the senate's back at 10 a.m. to consider christine o'hern to be a u.s. district judge for new jersey. the house select committee on the january 6th u.s. capitol attack considers holding steve bannon in contempt for refusing to testify. also the senate banking committee looks at u.s. sanctions policy with the treasury department's deputy secretary. in the afternoon, a hearing with admiral carl schultz. >> now, a hearing on the impact


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